Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Lung Cancer, the ugly stepchild

I've been thinking about this for a while, and actually wrote to a coworker today about how there is no Susan G. Komen race for the cure for lung cancer. No little pink ribbons we all can wear to show our solidarity with lung cancer sufferers. Nothing, nada, zip. I think it is because of the association with smoking--there is shame there that those diagnosed with lung cancer made their own bed and now have to lie in it. But this ignores some fundamental truths, as in over 50% of those diagnosed w/ lung cancer have quit smoking.

In my case I quit 29 years ago, as a wedding present to my then husband. It made for a shitty honeymoon (as did the fact that we camped out on St. John's Virgin Island because the ex didn't want to spend the $ for a hotel--nothing like cold his and her separate showers in the communal restrooms after you wake up and after you sweep the termite trail from your tent). Rum was cheap while food was very expensive but of course, since I had just quit smoking, forget getting drunk. Then he came down with a version of poison ivy from something called a machineo tree and all bets were off. Advice to those engaged: spend what it takes for a nice time. It does your marriage no good to start out in the fashion I did.

At any rate, back to today's reality, here are some statistics about lung cancer courtesy of National Lung Cancer Partnership. I think the last one is a real tragedy:

Lung Cancer in the United States: Facts

*Approximately 219,000 people are diagnosed with lung cancer in the U.S. each year – over 103,000 women and nearly 116,000 men.1

*Lung cancer kills more than 160,000 people annually – more people than breast, colon and prostate cancers combined.1

*Lung cancer is responsible for more than 28% of all cancer-related deaths every year.1

*Smoking is the primary cause of lung cancer. Approximately 87 percent of lung cancer cases occur in people who are currently smoking or have previously smoked.2

*Although the risk of developing lung cancer goes down with smoking cessation, a significant risk remains for 20 years or longer after quitting.2, 3

*Approximately 50 percent of all lung cancers (106,500) occur in people who have already quit smoking.4

*Radon exposure is the second leading cause of lung cancer, and the leading cause of lung cancer among never-smokers.5

*More people who have never smoked die from lung cancer than do people from AIDS or liver cancer or ovarian cancer.6, 7

*Risk factors for lung cancer other than those from smoking include lung scarring from tuberculosis, and occupational or environmental exposures to radon, second-hand smoke, radiation, asbestos, air pollution, arsenic and some organic chemicals.1

*Only 16 percent of lung cancer patients are diagnosed before their disease has spread to other parts of their bodies, (e.g., regional lymph nodes and beyond), compared to more than 50 percent of breast cancer patients, and 90 percent of prostate cancer patients.1, 8

*Men’s mortality (death) rates from lung cancer began declining more than 20 years ago, while women’s lung cancer mortality rates have been rising for decades and just recently began to stabilize.9

*African Americans experience the highest incidence of lung cancer, and the highest death rate.10

*Roughly 84 percent of people diagnosed with lung cancer die within five years of their diagnosis, compared to 11 percent of breast cancer and less than 1 percent of prostate cancer patients.1

*Less money is spent on lung cancer research than on research on other cancers. In 2007, the National Cancer Institute estimated it spent only it spent only $1,415 per lung cancer death compared to $13,991 per breast cancer death, $10,945 per prostate cancer death, and $4,952 per colorectal cancer.1, 11

References Cited

1. American Cancer Society. Cancer Facts and Figures 2009. Atlanta: American Cancer Society; 2009.
2. Satcher, D., T.G. Thompson and J.P. Kaplan, Women and smoking: a report of the Surgeon General. Nicotine Tob Res, 2002. 4(1): p. 7-20.
3. Ebbert, J.O., et al., Lung cancer risk reduction after smoking cessation: observations from a prospective cohort of women. J Clin Oncol, 2003. 21(5): p. 921-6.
4. Tong, L., M.R. Spitz, J.J. Fueger, and C.A. Amos, Lung carcinoma in former smokers. Cancer, 1996. 78(5): p. 1004-10.
5. National Research Council, Health Effects of Exposure to Radon: BEIR V. National Academy Press, Washington, DC, 1999.
6. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2005; 54(25):625-628
7. Hoyert, D.L., M.P. Heron, S.L. Murphy, H. Kung. Deaths: Final Data for 2003. National vital statistics reports; 54(13). Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. 2006.
8. American Cancer Society, Breast Cancer Facts & Figures 2005-2006. Atlanta: American Cancer Society, Inc.
9. Jemal, A., R.C. Tiwari, T. Murray, A. Ghafoor, A. Samuels, E. Ward, E.J. Feuer, and M.J. Thun, Cancer statistics, 2004. CA Cancer J Clin, 2004. 54(1): p. 8-29.
10. Centers for disease Control and Prevention, Health, United States, 2006 National Center for Health Statistics: Atlanta, GA. p. 180, 244.
11. National Cancer Institute Snapshots:


Evelyn said...

I have a close friend who watched her brother battle brain cancer and die, leaving his young family. She deeply resented all the attention and funding that breast cancer received.

Breast cancer groups have been smart and savvy about fund raising and marketing, but maybe we need to tap into that for a common "let's kill cancer" effort.

(PS that sounds like to worst honeymoon ever!)

Evelyn said...

Just found this: Relay for Life raises money for American Cancer Society (it started in Tacoma and runs every summer, and has expanded across the country). They market with the purple ribbon.

So, rather than play "what is the most popular cancer" maybe we should drum up support for purple and the American Cancer Society?

Marianne Gordon said...

Forget the American Cancer Society - they don't PROVIDE funding for lung cancer research!